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Part II.

The Christian's obligation in Gifts and Giving

A study of tithing, God's Biblical standard of giving

Malachi 3:8-11. "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' 'In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,' says the Lord of hosts; 'And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,' says the Lord of hosts."

Now in language, this seems to be addressing "the nation of Israel", or at this time, the nation of "Judah" (Israel having been taken into captivity in 721b.c. by Assyria). But we find a few verses later a passage that many Christian pastors and teachers correctly interpret as addressing Christians in the church age. If this passage addresses Christians, as many teach and believe, then Malachi 3:8-11 is also spoken to Christians as well as it's originally intended audience of Jews during Malachi's time in Jewish history. Let's look at this passage of Scripture. Malachi 3:16-18 states, "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. 'They shall be Mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.' Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him." As I said, most Christian teachers interpret this passage as being spoken to and aimed at Christians, not Jews. What is the time when the Lord makes up His Jewels? Isn't it found in 1 Corinthians 15:49-56, Revelation 5:9-10; 19:7-21? So then, Malachi 3:8-11 also applies to Christians, being a part of the very same chapter that the Lord's comments about "making up his jewels" appear in.

Now we know a tithing structure was commanded and set up for the theocratic nation of Israel in Moses time. Tithing was a commanded part of the Old Covenant Law of God commanded to Israel at Sinai. We'll read the actual commands later. But when that covenant ceased, so did the tithing command unless we can find a transference of that command into the new covenant. The apostle Paul was the great explainer of the principles and commands of the new covenant law of God, which is the law of God restored to its higher spiritual intent at Jesus' death and resurrection, and applies to all Christians everywhere and of every age. Romans is one of the greatest epistles for explaining the gospel of Christ and new covenant law of God in action. Hebrews is another epistle where Paul really gets into some solid explanations of other parts of the new covenant law of God, also called the law of Christ. So we must prove that the authority to levy tithes has somehow, somewhere, been transferred over to the Christian church as a whole. Otherwise the tithing command is merely an obsolete part of God's Old Covenant Law commanded to the nation of Israel at Sinai (sort of like a tax law which is no longer necessary, since the nation the tax law existed for was no longer in existence [it wasn't until 1948], and is no longer a theocratic government. So we must look for a transference of the tithing command somewhere in the New Testament writings before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Levitical Priesthood that had the right to levy tithes from the people of Israel, now the Jews.

Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 6:19-20; 7:1-28. We read "This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated 'king of righteousness,' and then also king of Salem, meaning 'king of peace,' without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils. And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; but he whose genealogy is not derived from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him." So we have established that Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek was a far higher order of paying tithes than the people of Israel paying tithes to Levi, who was still in Abraham's loins, unborn as yet for two generations, Levi being one of Abraham's great-grandchildren, sons of Jacob. So we must look for a priesthood of the order of Melchizedek to supersede that of the priesthood of Levi. If this can be established, then what Paul has just stated here is that the tithes are now to go to this higher order priesthood, that of Melchizedek. Let's read further in verses 11-28 and see how Paul shows the establishment of the priesthood of Melchizedek. "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." What law? What law has Paul been talking about from verses 1-9 of Hebrews 7? Taken in context with those previous verses, the only law of God being discussed was the law of tithing. So this whole chapter is discussing the changing of the tithing law, and more precisely the transference of the right to tithe from one priesthood to another higher order of priesthood. Let's keep reading. "For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For he testifies:

'You are a priest forever
according to the order of
Melchizedek' [Psalm 110:4]

For on the one hand there is an annulment of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." Now some might say that Paul is annulling the tithing commandment here. But reading further into chapter 8 of Hebrews shows Paul is stating that the whole old covenant Law of God has been disannulled and superceded by a greater new covenant law. The parameters of these changes are explained in the book of Hebrews. But here Paul is showing that the right to tithe has been transferred to another priesthood. Now he's about to show that the old Levitical priesthood has been superceded by a far greater High Priest and priesthood. Let's keep reading. "And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him:

"The Lord has sworn and will not relent,
'You are a priest forever according to
the order of Melchizedek'" [Psalm 110:4]

by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. And there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He ever lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever." So you can see by context, the "commandment" that is being annulled is the entire old covenant commandment system of law that are not carried over in the New Testament writings, and are referred to as "the law of Christ." Paul has previously shown in Hebrews 7:1-12 that the right to levy tithes has passed to the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek--the law was changed, vs. 12. Now he has just shown us that the Levitical priesthood has been superceded by a higher priesthood, the order of Melchizedek, and that the whole old covenant law of Moses has been annulled. Also there is a permanent High Priest of the order of Melchizedek, Jesus Christ. (Read Hebrews 8 to see Paul's description of the new covenant replacing the old.) Turn now to Hebrews 4:14-16 and let's read, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

So we see Paul spelling out an important change of the right to levy tithes from the old Levitical priesthood, to the new covenant order of Melchizedek, with Jesus as High Priest of this order. Christian pastors and organizations that are truly of Christ all fall under this order of Melchizedek and have the right to levy tithes of their members. It's that simple. But Paul stated in his epistles that although he had this right to levy tithes of the churches he established, he chose not to exercise this right, but to work by hand himself to support his ministry that no one be stumbled by thinking he was "making a living off of them." But he stated elsewhere that the ox that treads the corn was not to be muzzled. As we saw and read in Part I, George Muller showed us the central attitude churches and Christian organizations ought to have and demonstrate in seeking support from their members. Paul set the same example here as well, trusting entirely to God for his welfare and support. So there is a very critical balance between the giver and receiver in the area of tithes, gifts and giving. The receiver has an obligation to refrain from demanding tithes and offerings and trust to God for them, and the giver has an obligation to give tithes, the basic pattern of giving God has established for His people. Many Christian organizations don't fully follow this balance, but it is Scriptural. [Now I'm going to make a comment here about the various interpretations you find in the differing denominations on tithing. Some say the new covenant agreement between God and his people, Christians, does away with all tithing regulations found in the Old Testament, and that Christians are admonished to give liberally, some say, even more liberally than a tenth, if they are blessed financially and able to do so. Other's preach a strict tithe, to be paid to their denomination or church organization. What we find here in Hebrews 7, quite simply put, is that Jesus gave over the right for the priesthood of Melchizedek--the Christian pastors in the various denominations--to levy tithes and/or offerings, as they see fit. So whatever your denomination or pastor teaches is what you should follow. The Christian pastor or lead pastor of a denomination has the right of determination here. Some are strict and hold to the tithe law, others are more liberal in their interpretations, as I explained. I will say this. George Mueller set the perfect example of taking a portion of the offerings given to the orphanage the Lord helped him set up, and he donated that to worthy evangelistic organizations and Bible schools. I do so as well on a personal level, donating a small portion of my weekly "tithes" to the JESUS Film Project (Campus Crusade for Christ International), Samaritan's Purse (under Franklin Graham), and Gospel for Asia (K.P. Yohannan's support of evangelists in India and Pakistan). Look up George Mueller in the "What is Prayer" section to see what a great figure he was in God's work during the 1800s. He was truly an apostle of faith and miracles.

Now let's take that look at the old covenant tithe structure and how it originated.

Abraham tithed to the One who become Jesus:

Genesis 14:18-20. "Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:

'Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.'
And he gave him a tithe of all."

The Israelites commanded to tithe to the Levites:

Numbers 18:21,24. "Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting...For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, 'Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.'"

The Levites commanded to tithe to the house of Aaron (from which the Levitical priests were reckoned and came from). 1st Tithe:

Numbers 18:25-28. "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the Levites, and say to them: 'When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord's heave offering from it to Aaron the priest."

As we will see a little bit later, the major portion or dollar value of a person's tithes was the tithe of cattle and livestock, and we will see that the theocratic nation of Israel had three tithes. That will be explained later. But next we're going to see how the cattle were tithed on.

Leviticus 27:30,32. "And all the tithe of the land, whether of seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's: it is holy unto the Lord...And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord." I.e. a guy would guide his herd through a restriction one by one, under a rod. Every tenth animal was the Lord's, regardless whether it was good or bad.

2nd Tithe

The second tithe, as we shall see, was to be saved by the Israelites to enable them to be able to attend the feasts of the Lord (mentioned in Leviticus 23), the main feast requiring sustenance or money being the feast of Tabernacles in the fall. The law of the firstborn covered the meat portion of this second tithe to be saved for feasts. As we shall see, the males went to God, and we're given to the Levites for their 2nd tithe. Thus they didn't have to save a second tithe. The first-born females were saved for the individual's 2nd tithe, to be taken to the feasts. They could be sold and converted to money and that money taken to the feasts, or a portion could be sold and converted to money, whatever the person desired. But the first-born females or money from their sale had to be taken to the feasts. The firstborn males had to be given to the Lord, i.e. the Levites, and was for their second tithe for the Holy Day seasons. Let's read the Scriptures showing this. We find this going back to Abel.

Genesis 4:4. "And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering..."

Leviticus 27:26. "Only the firstling of the beasts, which should be the Lord's firstling, no man shall sanctify it: whether it be ox, or sheep; it is the Lord's."

Exodus 13:1-2,12-13. "And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, 'Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast: it is mine...That thou shalt set apart unto the Lord all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the Lord's. And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb...and all the firstborn of man among thy children shall thou redeem." By inference, and the Jews will confirm this, the female firstborn were kept and set aside for the individual's 2nd tithe in cattle. Only was a literal tithe taken of the cattle for first tithe. A second full tithe of cattle was not required, only the firstborn were required to be set aside, males to the Levites, females for your own 2nd tithe on the hoof for Holy Day seasons.

The Levites take the place of the firstborn of the Israelite male children: (that's why they were to be redeemed.)

Numbers 8:15-18. "And after that shall the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation: and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering [a living offering, not sacrificed like cattle. Cf. Romans 12:1-2]. For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me. For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.

2nd and 3d tithe explained:

Deuteronomy 14:22-27. "Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year. And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks: that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord they God always. And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; or if the place be too far from thee, which the Lord thy God shall choose to set him name there, when the Lord thy God hath blessed thee: then shalt thou turn it into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose: and thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household. And the Levite that is within thy gates ["within thy gates" i.e. living within your local town or community]; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee. [i.e. be liberal with your 2nd tithe. He only gets the firstborn males--no corn, wine or oil--so give him some.]

Deuteronomy 12:17-19. "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of thy oil, or the firstlings of thy herds or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy freewill offerings, or heave offering of thine hand: but thou must eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates: and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thine hands unto. Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth." It becomes obvious that this "tithe of thy corn, and of thy wine, and of thy oil and firstlings of thy herd [males for the Levites, females for the individual]" is referring to a second tithe which was to be taken to the major feasts of Israel spelled out in Leviticus 23. The two major feast seasons were Passover and the 7 days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. All Israel was to go to the place the Lord placed his name at and attend these Holy Days, called the Feasts of the Lord. Historically, we can see that this place was Jerusalem at the Temple Solomon built, and in the time of Jesus, the Temple that Herod embellished on the same site as Solomon's Temple. There appears to be no first tithe of corn, wine and oil, or seed and fruit trees. Just a first tithe or tenth of every animal passing under the rod. The big dollar value in tithes was always cattle and sheep, not the corn, wine and oil. Cattle and sheep could be sold and the money used to buy the other items. The Levitical priesthood ran the ministry of the Lord and ministered to the people of Israel for the Lord. Their pay was every tenth animal going under the rod. Now a 3rd tithe is mentioned.

A 3rd tithe:

Deuteronomy 14:28-29. "At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: and the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates [i.e. within your town, community], shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest."

This according to Jewish scholars was a third tithe, separate from the 1st and 2nd. It wasn't the first tithe now put aside for a different use. It was a welfare tithe, required of a person every third year. The Lord put a great deal of emphasis on taking care of the fatherless and widows, both in the Old Testament and New Testament (read I Timothy 5:3-8, 16 where Timothy as a pastor is charged with taking care of widows, if the widow's family can't). But as can be surmised, these 3 tithes were part of the ancient theocratic government of Israel's tax code for the running of a nation. The religious teachers and instructors that taught the Law of the Land, the Law of God, to the people were the Levites and the Levitical Priesthood. The tithes paid for their support. The Word and Law of God was taught at the Holy Days and Festival seasons, and the 2nd tithe guaranteed each Israelite had the funds to attend, no excuses. Romans 14 points out that the keeping of Sabbaths and Holy Days is now voluntary, and we find Jewish Christians, then and now observing them, and Gentile Christians not doing so. We all have that freedom in Christ as spelled out by the apostle Paul in Romans 14 to do as we please in that area. If one wants to save a 2nd tithe to enable the observing of these days, that is a totally voluntary thing, and no such new covenant requirement exists.

As we have seen, the right to levy tithes has passed from the Levitical Priesthood to the Priesthood of Melchizedek (Jesus Christ). Jesus set the example through the apostle Paul that this priesthood of Melchizedek is not to be pushy or greedy in demanding their portion or tithe, and more recently George Mueller made the same strong statements as Paul did through his life. So in Part I we saw the proper attitude that Christian churches and organizations are to have toward seeking the tithe/offerings of their flocks. The reason so many people are mistrustful of giving to Christian churches and organizations is mainly due to the attitude they exhibit in either demanding their portion or in the plain greed exhibited by some less than reputable televangelists. The body of Christ must strive to correct this nasty public image. In this Part II we have seen the obligation of the Christian to give to the new covenant priesthood of Melchizedek, i.e. the Christian church and/or denomination he or she may belong to, the organization that spiritually feeds that individual. The major portion of the Christian's tithe/offering should go to the Christian church and/or denomination that spiritually nourishes him or her. George Mueller stated, "We consider every believer bound...to help the cause of Christ."

That is the end of Part II.

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